Wednesday, December 3, 2014

REVIEW: Perilous Seas by Dave Duncan
Original Publication Year: 1991
Genre(s): Fantasy
Series: A Man of his Word #3 (my Reviews for #1 and #2)
Awards: None
Format: Paperback from Library
Narrated by: NA

So I feel the  need to become a cheerleader for Dave Duncan.  A dorky, nerdy cheerleader.  I feel like he’s one of those authors that flies under the radar a bit?  I’d never heard of him before picking up this series on a whim and his name does not get bandied about in the fantasy blogosphere that I've noticed.  However, this series is really excellent and deserves a little more love than it gets.

Perilous Seas is the third in the quadrilogy and is my favorite installment to date.  The series follows a rightful-but-disputed Queen, Inosolan, of a small but strategically important kingdom and her trusty friend/stableboy, Rap, who happens to have a word of power which is the basis of this world's magic system.  If you know a word, some of your natural abilities are enhanced; two words, you gain more abilities and greater power manipulating them and so forth up to four words which is the most one person can know.  Throughout most of the first three volumes Rap and Inos are on separate adventures but with the same purpose - to crown Inos, Queen of Krasnegar. Inos thinks Rap is dead and Rap runs into obstacle after obstacle trying to reunite with Inos.  By the time he does at the end of this book he has matured well beyond the powerless stableboy he was at the beginning and her story has taken a sharp turn that puts her quest to take her rightful throne in jeopardy.  The ending is a nice big cliffhanger and I can’t wait to see how it all concludes in book four!

So why do I think this series deserves more attention?  First off and on the slightly unremarkable side it’s a well done Quest/Sword and Sorcery type fantasy.  If you like that sort of thing, which I know many do, you should be pleased with what this series offers. 

It does have its unique elements as well.

I think the setting is particularly interesting with a world divided into countries based on mythical races: jotnar, fauns, djinn, mermaids, gnomes, imps, goblins.  All the races are basically human but with certain characteristics that would’ve given rise to the mythical beings they resemble – fauns are particularly hairy especially on their legs, Djinn have a somewhat reddish skin color, the jotnar are all large, brutish and most are sailors.  The homelands and cultures for the different races are also representative of where the mythology came from (Djinns in a desert kingdom, Jotnar in the far northern frozen lands, etc…).  It adds a good bit of diversity to the story and through the three books the characters, particularly Rap, experience almost all of the cultures/lands.

The dual narrative works really well with both Rap and Inos having their own separate and very different storylines.  It ensures a good level of complexity, action, and different perspectives to keep things interesting.

Rap and Inos are both great characters who, while filling archetypal roles, still manage to be unique individuals.  Rap has evolved from the kind-hearted stableboy into a kind-hearted man who has been bestowed with a good bit of power. The power sits on him uncomfortably but he’s not really a reluctant hero either.  He is quite determined to help Inos and willing to grab more power for himself when necessary.  He’s also got a great sarcastic sense of humor.  Inos is perhaps not quite as interesting but she is an independent and strong female character which Duncan puts into circumstances that highlight the more difficult path for women in this world of men. 

I liked Perilous Seas particularly because I think Duncan got the pacing just right and there was a lot going on in both storylines building up to the climax scene at the end.  It sets up the final act really well while being a good read in its own right.

So give me and D....Give me an A...Give me a VE DUNCAN!  Get out there and start reading some Dave Duncan.  I haven’t read any of the many other books he has written but this series has definitely been a good starting place for me.

Final Verdict:  All the good cozy things you want from "old-school" fantasy with a nice dash of creativity.  This was my favorite installment in this 4 book series thus far! 4 out of 5 Stars: ✪✪✪✪

Review of Book 4 of this series - Emperor and Clown - will post tomorrow. 

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